Michael Schumacher has confirmed that he will remain on-board at Mercedes Grand Prix into 2011 as he bids to turn around his thus far disappointing F1 comeback – and whilst acknowledging that he is not 'a magician' and that it will inevitably 'take time', the most successful driver the sport has ever known insists he remains 'confident' of achieving his 'final target' of one more crown.
Much has been made of the multiple F1 World Champion's distinctly underwhelming return this year, as the man with no fewer than 91 grand prix victories, 154 podium finishes and 1,369 points to his name from his 'first career' in the top flight – and a nigh-on unbeatable record against his team-mates – has looked listless in battle, on occasion even a spent force and has found himself roundly outperformed by Nico Rosberg in the sister MGP W01.
The younger of the two countrymen, indeed, has to-date outscored his elder compatriot by 90 points to just 36, out-qualified him eight-two and notched up three rostrums to Schumacher's none, with the pair sitting respectively sixth and ninth in the drivers' standings.
At 41 years of age now and following three seasons away from the cut-and-thrust of active competition, 'Schumi' has had his day, say the critics, with many even musing that he might elect to cut short his three-year deal with Mercedes and hang up his helmet once more come the end of the 2010 campaign to avoid potentially doing any further damage to his illustrious reputation – fears fuelled by comments from the likes of the sport's influential commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone and Sir Jackie Stewart. Far from it, the man himself urges.
“My aim is still what I officially publicised when I rejoined F1 – to win another title,” he asserted, on the eve of this weekend's German Grand Prix at Hockenheim – a race in which he has triumphed four times. “That is my focus and that is what I'm here for, very clearly. I know the final target, where I want to go, [and] I'm very confident I can achieve it.
“Am I perfectly happy with my own performance? That is probably the wrong thing to say. There is an expectation out there, but you have to be realistic that it is probably impossible to meet. To be out three years, and start where I did in a car that doesn't allow me to do it, is unrealistic. I'm not a magician. I just need time, and I will take my time. I enjoy most of it, this process. There are ups-and-downs, and that is part of motorsport.”
Adamant that his race-rustiness will eventually wear off and allow him to fully adapt to the new generation of F1 and regain his former brilliance, Schumacher went on to concede that the machine with which he and Rosberg have been equipped this season is a far cry from its all-conquering Brawn GP predecessor of 2009 – and the driver who raced the BGP 001 to world championship glory, Jenson Button, suggests that the Kerpen native really needs to have a car that is built around him to show whether or not he still has his once so famous edge.
“Michael's had some pretty tough races, and he's been slated for having some bad races,” reflected the British star. “Maybe it's right, I don't know – but he's also had some pretty competitive races, and his team-mate is not slow. I am a bit surprised Michael hasn't got closer to Nico in some races, but then again, it's the first year for Michael driving a car that hasn't been designed around him.
“It's difficult to judge, but hopefully Michael will still be here next year because he will be better then. I don't think he can quit now – he has to stay next year. He has to stay for himself, until he is winning races, to leave the sport.”